Pennsylvania is already running out of money two months into its fiscal year
Online Poker Report

PA Online Gambling Legalization Stuck In The Mud Until Fall As Budget Stalemate Persists

PA gambling stuck in mud
“Wait until next year” is usually the refrain for online gambling proponents in states where legalization is on the table.

In Pennsylvania, it’s “wait until the fall” for the the second straight year, as the state struggles to balance its budget.

The update on PA: Online gambling still on tap

The bad news: It doesn’t appear PA online gambling is going to be making any progress in the short term.

The good news? It’s still very much in play as the state continues to look for ways to pay for a shortfall between revenue and its budget for the current fiscal year. Senate Minority leader Jay Costa indicated as much on Twitter:

Those discussions will presumably continue to include online gambling, which is being counted on for much of the $200 million in new revenue in the Senate’s version of a revenue package to fund the government.

PA House is still on hiatus, with no plan on gaming

Gov. Tom Wolf — who has been keeping a low profile during revenue negotiations — and the Senate have by all accounts basically agreed on how to pay for the state’s budget.

The holdout is the House, and more specifically House Republicans, who haven’t “committed to even begin debating” the revenue package, per Philly.com. But they have at least been looking at it privately, according to Penn Live. When, or even if, they might actually act on it, or present their own new revenue package, is unclear.

Meanwhile, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was the latest member of the PA government to blast the House for doing nothing on the budget. He signed a “$750 million line of credit to mitigate cash-flow problems” on Friday and then issued a statement on the state’s budget woes:

The fact the state is running out of money in the second month of the fiscal year should be a wake-up call to every elected official in Pennsylvania. My concern goes beyond the cash-flow problem that indicates the state’s unaddressed structural deficit. I am concerned that schools and county agencies across the state are once again worried about funding uncertainties. …

The House must do the responsible thing and come back next week to address this budget situation. And once they are back, the House and Senate leadership and the governor should immediately lock themselves in a room and work until they figure out a way to provide Pennsylvanians with a balanced budget.

What’s different for PA online gambling in 2017 than 2016?

If you followed PA’s talks on gambling last year, you’ll already realize that the state promised to pass gaming regulation (and online gambling) to fund the budget in 2016. It never actually followed through with that promise, however.

So, if lawmakers are again promising money from online gambling, what makes this year any different?

  • Last year, lawmakers earmarked $100 million from gambling revenue. This year it’s twice that, at least in the Senate plan. That’s not a trivial amount of money to promise.
  • Slot machine revenue continues to slide for PA casinos, a streak that is now at 10 months. Not changing anything on the gaming front means the state could end up getting even less from casino taxes than it did last fiscal year.
  • There appear to be actual real-world impacts if the state doesn’t balance its budget this time around, including the possibility of a downgraded credit rating.

Still, there’s plenty of reason to believe that lawmakers simply won’t come to a consensus, especially if House Republicans are still dead set on legislation that legalizes video gaming terminals in taverns. That issue appears to be dead in the Senate.

But the fall still holds the hope of a miracle, with the possibility of online gambling finally reaching the finish line in Pennsylvania.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.